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Dueling Drivers, A PR Do-Over, & The Test

Coinciding with the launch of the 7970GE, both AMD and NVIDIA have released new drivers this week. For AMD the 7970GE will be launching with the Catalyst 12.7 beta, while NVIDIA has released the 304.48 betas for the entire lineup. For both AMD and NVIDIA these are major performance drivers, with both groups seeing significant performance in a handful of games.

We’ll take a look at the full performance spectrum starting with our regular benchmarks on the next page, but first we wanted to quickly break out the performance impact of the driver changes for both the 7970 and the GTX 680 at 2560x1600.

The biggest gains for AMD and NVIDIA are seen in DiRT 3 and Shogun 2 respectively. For reasons we’re not fully sure of, AMD has managed to significantly improve their performance on DiRT 3 and turn the tables on what was previously a game favoring NVIDIA. At the same time however NVIDIA has finally fixed the Kepler performance bug that was introduced in the March update for Shogun 2, restoring performance to where it was before the update and pushing NVIDIA ahead of AMD once more.

Meanwhile AMD sees lesser gains in Batman, BF3, and Skyrim, while NVIDIA also gains on Batman but that’s about it. Altogether AMD’s latest driver update has pushed their average performance ahead slightly more than NVIDIA’s, which for the 7970 versus the GTX 680 means that the GTX 680 now leads by about 9% instead of 10%. It’s not nearly enough to change any recommendations, but the fact that AMD and NVIDIA have swapped leads in certain games is a reminder of how important drivers can be and how volatile performance leads are.

A PR Do-Over

Because the 7970GE is functionally identical to the 7970 save its higher clocks and PT Boost, we’re opting to use our limited time to focus solely on performance. With that said it was interesting to see that AMD is very much treating the 7970GE launch as a do-over for the 7900 series. In their press presentation they spent a fair bit of time focusing on various aspects of the 7900 series and GCN we’re already familiar with, such as compute performance, their Leo technology demo, and of course GCN.

None of this has any direct relevance to the performance of the 7970GE, but we thought it was worth mentioning since it gives a bit more insight into how AMD is approaching things. This is all we’re going to say on the matter, but we have reproduced a few of the press slides below for any of you that are interested.

The Test

CPU: Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.3GHz
Motherboard: EVGA X79 SLI
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.​2.​3.​1022
Power Supply: Antec True Power Quattro 1200
Hard Disk: Samsung 470 (256GB)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1867 4 x 4GB (8-10-9-26)
Case: Thermaltake Spedo Advance
Monitor: Samsung 305T
Asus PA246Q
Video Cards: AMD Radeon HD 5870
AMD Radeon HD 6970
AMD Radeon HD 7870
AMD Radeon HD 7950
AMD Radeon HD 7970
AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 304.42 Beta
AMD Catalyst 12.7 Beta
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

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  • clumsyalex - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    the first chart, the regular 7970 is priced higher than the ghz edition. the second chart shows it as lower however Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Actually those are a list of launch prices up top. The 7970 launched at $550, which is indeed higher than the $500 launch price of the 7970GE. Reply
  • EnerJi - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    It's confusing and misleading. The first thing I thought when I saw it was that you had accidentally reversed the prices between the two models. Reply
  • Iketh - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    that certainly isn't what I thought... i understood what was being presented to me Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    I love how amd has a birthday for tahiti at 6 months....

    Why wait a year for a birthday when you're a lying sack of crap corporate monster rip off crummy drivers fan boy mass brainwash co ?

    Heck, two birthdays a year !!! amd is so great, they get two birthdays a year !
    Reply
  • silverblue - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    People in the first few months of a relationship like to mention anniversaries a lot despite the (rather obvious) point that the word denotes a yearly period. "Milestone" would be more appropriate though it does sound less glamourous and perhaps a bit pessimistic (well, in the case of relationships, anyway). Might even seem cynical. Reply
  • Captmorgan09 - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Just read the chart and it's not confusing... I did a double take the first time I glanced at it, but when I actually read it it made perfect sense. :) Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    In case it's not clear, since we have a price comparison chart at the bottom, the purpose of the prices up top is to help describe the cards. The fact that the 7970GE is listed for $500 next to the $550 7970 for example is to make it clear that it's launching at a lower price than the 7970. It helps offer some perspective on capabilities and the market segment it's designed for.

    That said, we can always get rid of it if it's a problem.
    Reply
  • QChronoD - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Could I suggest adding when they launched on the line right above the prices? I can easily see how that is confusing, but also knowing how old each generation would be useful to see. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Now that's an excellent idea! Reply

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